SMS Goalsetting Strategies
A successful safety management system (SMS) includes strategy solutions for setting goals for the safe operations of an aircraft or airport, and for members of an SMS Enterprise to be involved in an ongoing development of the safety management system itself.
Traditionally, in an organization, all positions are established by authority of command, decision-making authority, and signatory authority. An organizational chart of a traditional organization takes the form of a pyramid, where the president, CEO of the corporation, or the board, has final authority. From the top-level in the pyramid, at the CEO level, the pyramid continues upwards, spreads outwards and takes on the shape of an inverted pyramid to reach as many customers as possible. People who are working within this type of traditional organizational structure have little or no impact on decisions made by the CEO.
In this type of highly successful and accepted organizational structure, a conflict arises between the concept and principles of members of an SMS Enterprise, and their position in the traditional business hierarchy. Either a change of culture to the current established business structure is required to conform to SMS, or the culture of an SMS Enterprise is required to change to conform to the current organizational structure. Establishing an SMS with a business-like approach to safety does not imply that the hierarchy of a business is copied and applied to an SMS Enterprise, but rather that a systematic businesslike approach is applied to the SMS.
There are no qualifications or training requirements for a person to accept the position as an accountable executive (AE) at an airport or airline. By the position a CEO holds in the organizational hierarchy, that person qualifies by default as the AE. Qualifications for the AE to be accountable on behalf of the certificate holder for meeting the requirements of the regulations are assumed to be acceptable by their CEO position in the organizational hierarchy. A condition for a person to accept the position as an accountable executive is that they have control of the financial and human resources that are necessary for operations authorized under the certificate. Maintaining daily regulatory compliance is not a condition, but a qualification, experience level requirement and a team assembly skill. While the condition for an AE is that the person has control of the financial and human resources that are necessary for operations authorized under the certificate, their priority is to maintain regulatory compliance. These two opposing requirements is a hazard to a safety management system since they are opposing forces where one is a responsibility, and the other is a condition.
A condition is an appearance. E.g., the condition of the front tire does not look good. The condition of accountable executive is the appearance of cash to allocate to the safety management system. Cash in itself does not promote SMS or aviation safety. It is the responsibility, action, or task applied that counts. Conventional wisdom is that cash will lead to safety improvements or a support tool to the SMS. However, without goalsetting strategies improvements, goals are not goals, but only wishes or dreams without any safety improvements.
A responsibility is forward-looking accountability, it is to plan, it is to initiate actions and comply with follow-up actions. An accountable executive with a responsibility to maintain compliance with the regulations involve, not only one, but several task over the course of a day. Daily tasks are not randomly picked tasks but are planned and analyzed for compliance tasks.
An SMS manual is the process manual, or the manual where it is described, or depicted in flowcharts how things are done in the organization. Every process in an SMS manual answers the 5-W’s + How questions. The questions are about what the process is, when the process is executed, where it is executed, who does it, which is to answer who is the position, and not a name who the person is, why is the process applied and how is it done. These questions are then applied to line-items required tasks, where one task may complete a compliance requirement with multiple regulations. The role of an AE is also to analyze how these processes within an SMS Enterprise supports data, information, knowledge, comprehension, information sharing, trust, learning and accountability. The responsibility of an accountable executive is an oversight responsibility and research, planning, design and development responsibility.
With a daily quality control program in place, the task for the AE becomes to assign daily variables to common cause or special cause variables. The role of an AE is not to make the final safety decisions, since an AE, in most cases, is a businessperson and not a safety management system expert. Safety is not to apply common sense, but to apply pre-defined processes and pre-defined expectations, or outcome, of those processes. If we don’t know what to expect, the outcomes are only wishes and dreams.
Following the accountable executive selection flow chart, a person is excluded from selection if they do not have control over human and financial resources. The intent of the requirement is therefore to select an AE with an operating budget to support regular operations for an airport or airline. By this definition the SMS did not change pre-SMS operational practices, where a person, possible director of flight operations, had funding for hiring, training and daily operational tasks. Large purchases, investments or emergency cash would still be allocated by the board of directors or the sole proprietor owner of a business.
When an accountable executive has established all operational tasks required for compliance, their priority is to establish a goalsetting strategy. Goalsetting within an SMS Enterprise does not follow the business approach organizational chart, where each level of management has veto authority. All members of an SMS Enterprise are on the same playing field. The accountable executive is the manager of the team with the authority to establish what direction to move. An AE establishes the policy or their vision of what the future should look like. If this scenario was applied to a baseball game, such as the Oakland Athletics 2002 season, the vision would be to assemble a competitive team. A goal for each game would be to win by one single point, with objectives for each player to act out their assigned responsibilities. Based on a vision to establish a competitive team the AE establishes a goalsetting project plan clearly defining goals which are supportive of the policy. SMS in aviation requires a competitive attitude and a strategy to win every game, or every daily quality control task. This is one reason why it is critical for a successful SMS to select an accountable executive who is determined to meet the requirements of the regulations. Each time a regulation is met, is when a player gets on base. An SMS Enterprise who gets on base regularly, or completes the daily quality control task regularly, has a winning team. A successful SMS cannot be run without a statistical process control (SPC) system to analyze where different strategies need to be applied.
The goalsetting strategy is not for the AE to accept all SMS goals presented or desired by a member. The goalsetting strategy is to assemble a team of players, or members, who accept their responsibilities within an SMS Enterprise to help the AE to meet the requirements of the regulations.